Women's History Month - Elizabeth Blackwell

The first woman to receive a medical degree in the US.

Queen Ranavalona III of Madagascar

The last Ruler of Madagascar.

She's Crafty - Microscopic Edition!

Some really cool science inspired crafts!

Happy Birthday - Septima Poinsette Clark

The "Queen Mother" or "Grandmother of the American Civil Rights Movement."

Friday, May 22, 2015

Kickstart This!

"Disbelief and fear settle into warm homes like unapologetic and unwanted visitors." Rebekah Isreal, Naked Nomad
You might wonder what it is I do when I'm not writing posts for this blog, or hanging out on social media. Well, until a year ago, I was also a full-time college student. When I turned 40, I quit my job and returned to college to finally get that bachelor's degree I'd been putting off for so long.

As a student at Sonoma State University (SSU) in the Environmental Studies and Planning (ENSP) department I finally completed my degree in Outdoor Leadership and Education, with lots of sociology and history classes thrown in for good measure.

I was thrilled beyond measure that I'd finally found a degree program that fit with my personal philosophy. And to make things even better were the wonderful students I got to know. Like these amazing young women below. The Outdoor Leadership and Education program is a wonderful set of classes that teach students how to share their love of the outdoors with the widest audience possible. As you might expect, students spend a significant portion of their class time outside, and sometimes even on some pretty exciting adventures. Naturally, this tends to lead to close bonds that last well after the class is over, and often involves even more extensive adventures.

The Naked Nomads (l to r): Laura, McKella, Sydney, Rebekah, Malina


I was fortunately enough to have several of these young women in the photo above in many of my classes, and was even a bit sad to leave them as I graduated. As it turns out, these hot shots are graduating this year, and to celebrate, they're going on a all-ladies bike tour! One they dreamed up themselves -- 5 women, 800 miles, 30 days. They've nicknamed themselves the Naked Nomads, and the name is so perfectly fitting. You would be hard pressed to find five more genuine and kind souls than these women right here.

This is where you come in. They're crowd-sourcing their trip, and need your help to meet their financial goal to make this trip happen. Here's their explanation from their GoFundMe campaign page:
We are the Naked Nomads.

Who are the Naked Nomads, you ask?

Naked (to us) means:
The stripping down of barriers that keep us from fully immersing ourselves into life, exposing our minds and bodies to the world.

We are five wonderful women from Sonoma County. Cyclists, outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers, and friends, we met through the outdoor program at Sonoma State University, where we have grown as individuals as well as companions. We are five passionate people about experiencing and seeing the world through the love for adventure. We strive to empower ourselves and others, which has led us to this epic bike tour.

Coming Summer 2015 we are going to push ourselves and our limits by CYCLING TO PORTLAND from June 25 to July 25. A month where the five of us will explore new horizons and discover the willingness to be intimate with nature and life. Living simply and fully, we hope to inspire other women to get out there and adventure.

As you can imagine, living simply can sometimes not be so simple. To be gone from our homes and jobs for a month, we need to save plenty of money that will get us through our journey. According to our estimates, we will need a total of $3,500 for all 5 us to accomplish this, so we ask to raise $2,000 through your support.

We have to plan for costs that include food, campsites/hostels, train fare (we will be taking the train back to Rohnert Park), gear & equipment, as well as an emergency fund in case anything comes up... for a whole month. We are asking you, our dear friends, family, and fellow adventurers, to please help us out and donate what you can. It would mean the world to us to be able to go through with this journey, and we would hate for the lack of funds to be the thing that keeps us from reaching this goal of ours. Anything truly helps!

Stay tuned for more updates, as we plan to start a blog and Instagram that we will be posting through on our expedition.

More importantly, stay golden.

Sydney, Laura, Rebekah, Malina, & McKella
A while ago now I chatted with these ladies to learn even more about their plans, and what they hope to learn on this thrilling adventure. They were kind enough to let me include some of their answers in this blog post.

***

SRPS: What inspired you to plan/join in on this trip?
Sydney: I started thinking about this trip about a year ago, partly because I really just wanted to go explore Portland, OR (and what better way to get to one of the most bike-friendly cities than via bike?) but also because I had been going through a bit of a rough patch and needed an adventure that would challenge me both physically and mentally, that could break me down so I could build myself back up stronger than before. A long distance bike tour seems to fit the bill perfectly. After McKella, Rebekah, Malina and I went to Portland for an AORE (Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education) conference this past fall, I mentioned my dream of biking to the city and we all just fell in love with the idea. We returned home, got our crew together (us four plus our beyond-stoked, fellow adventurer, Laura) and decided to make it happen.

SRPS: How inspiring! Who was in on the first planning stages?
NN: We’ve all been involved with the serious planning from the beginning. Our goal is to meet every other week to get the details of our trip solidified!

SRPS: What have you learned already in planning this kind of adventure?
NN: We’ve learned about how important it is to set up group expectations and goals. There have been some challenges with balancing jobs, school and internships, and planning this trip on top of our daily lives. We are learning to overcome these challenges and understanding that there will be many more on the trip. We’ve already gained perspective on how we face challenges individually and as a group. We all bring something unique and special to the ride, which will be important once we are on the road.

SRPS: What do you hope to learn on this trip?
NN: The trip is more about gaining life experiences and developing who we are through those experiences. It seems that, as a society, we've set people up to be successfully mundane. All of our hopes and expectations fit into a cozy little box because that's where we're safe and comfortable, but few people dare to go beyond that and reach for their full potential. In stepping outside of the life that is comfortable, we hope to inspire others to fulfill their own adventures.

***

How can you not be excited for these young adventurers, setting off in life, with the goal of being anything but "successfully mundane"?! Please take a moment to review their GoFundMe page and consider helping them make this trip a reality!

The Rabbit Hole

I don't know if it's the sickness or what, but the last couple of days, instead of doing my usual research for posts here, I've been practically obsessed with this photograph.

I found it on Pinterest, which is filled with similar images with a short caption, just enough to give you some info, but not enough to do much with. In this case, the caption is:
"Sue J. Roller was the 1st WAC to hold the rank of Master Sgt. at Fort Benning, Georgia on 14 July 1944. U.S. Army Signal Corps photograph, Gift in Memory of Maurice T. White, from The Digital Collections of the National WWII Museum, 2011.065.1486"
It's an image that was original found on the National WWII Museum's digital collection.

My search started, naturally, with a simple name search online, which brought up a couple of old newspaper clippings of the same story recounting how she was the first non-com personnel to serve as a Master Sergeant, and that she'd enlisted in the WAACs early in the war.


The text, from the July 27, 1944 Elmira Star-Gazette, reads:
Top Non-Com Wac. After 17 months in the Women's Army Corps, M-Sgt. Sue J. Roller, stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., attained the top rating possible for a non-commissioned officer. She heads the grade-reports section of the Infantry School, and all-WAC section.
OK, so that's something. But not much. Where is she from? What's her story? I kept looking. Then I found this fascinating piece in the Ukrainian Weekly, WACs with the Infantry School [PDF].
The progress of all students at The Infantry School, including that of the officer candidates, is recorded in the grade records section at TIS headquarters. Here, Master Sergeant Sue Roller, of 2511 Pike Avenue, Little Rock, Arkansas, is in charge of an all-WAC staff, the work of which is confidential.

Sergeant Roller, formerly an assistant office manager in an ordnance plant in Arkansas and one of the few master sergeants with cute dimples, joined up, when the WAC was the WAAC, on December 23, 1942. No one at the school ever wheedles information as to his grades from the Wacs who work with Sgt Roller.
She's from Arkansas! That's a good piece of information. From there, I found that in 1938 she married Arthur F. Roller, also from Arkansas. Strangely, in 1940 they show up in Los Angeles for the census. I wonder why? Was this related to the Great Depression? How long did they stay there? It can't have been too long if she was back in Arkansas working in an ordnance plant.

I see that her husband had a child, who had his own children. But is he her child as well? There are no available records, since some of these people are still living.

But not her. There are few records of Sue Jane Roller aside from these above. But there is a Sue Dorher (her maiden name) buried alongside her parents in a small cemetery in a small town in Arkansas. Leaving me with plenty more questions. Her tombstone only has her name and her birth date.



I can't explain my fascination with learning more about her life. I guess part of it has to do with the paucity of information included in this one snap shot, and the mystery of there being so very little info about her.

Did she divorce Arthur? Is she the mother of his child? When did she die? What happened to that smart Master Sergeant with the "cute dimples" in the photo above? Is her story lost to history? Does it matter?

I don't know if I'll keep researching once I'm over this sickness. But for the last couple of days, thoughts of Sue Jane Dorher Roller have been keeping me company while I doze off and on. I hope she was proud of her achievement, brief though it may have been.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Gamer Girl



I've played a lot of games over the years, but this will be my first foray into the pen and paper RPG realm. I have to admit I'm a little nervous. And a lot excited.

A very dear friend of mine will be running her first ever campaign as a GM, and has invited me to participate. I'm so very excited because I know she likes to tell great stories, and that's exactly the kind of RPG experience I have been looking for!

Last night, for the first time in life, I sat down with some books and a character sheet, and made some tough decisions. It's not too dissimilar to creating a character in an MMO, except that there are a whole lot more choices.

Meet Agatha the Dwarf Cleric!

I still have to come up with a family name, and settle on some of the finer points of her personal backstory. I have two weeks to hash that all out, though. Then it's time to meet the party and learn our fates!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Music Break - Miley Cyrus, Joan Jett and Laura Jane Grace

I really like this version of "Androgynous!" I was a Replacements fan way back in the day (a long, long time ago, in the dark ages before the Internet), and have always liked this song. It's such a sweet, upbeat song about love and joyful self-expression.

Joan Jett did a cover several years ago, with a great video, which you can watch here.

And more recently she joined up with Against Me! (founded and led by Laura Jane Grace), making an already great cover that much more awesome. Watch it here.

So, it seems only natural that when Miley Cyrus launched her Happy Hippie Foundation benefiting homeless LGBTQ youth, she'd pick these two amazing ladies to help her, and that they'd record a performance of this great song. So appropriate! So rockin'! This makes me so very happy!

They look like they're having such a great time!



Why is this so important? Joan Jett has long been an inspiration to young women who don't fit into the girly-girl mode. That she's joined up with singer and trans activist Laura Jane Grace is wonderful in itself, bringing more attention to the issues around gender and gender identity. That Miley Cyrus is using her platform to assist homeless youth, and especially the most vulnerable, is truly commendable.

Just a few statistics from the Happy Hippie Foundation:
  • 1.6 million youth are homeless each year
  • 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT, and family rejection is the most common reason LGBT youth experience homelessness
  • 25% of homeless youth were previously physically or sexually abused
  • Nearly one in three transgender people have been turned away from shelters
So brava ladies! Brava!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Kickstart This!

Look. I know I said I'd try to limit how many "Kickstart This!" blog posts I do to help spare your bank accounts, and I really am trying. It's not my fault there are so many amazing projects out there to support! I'm genuinely holding back a whole lot of stuff, and trying to give you the things that deserve the SRPS attention.

Things like The Last Cowboy.



I mean, look at how beautiful this thing is! And the creator Zoe Coughlin is so amazing. You can read the story here, but something this gorgeous and compelling really deserves to be in print. Which is why she needs you all to back her project.
The Last Cowboy is a science fiction story set sometime in the future, many years after humanity made first contact-and contracted a disease which leads them down the slow road to extinction. Now, though humans have fully integrated into a wider galactic society, the dark specter of their fate always hangs over their heads.


You'll be opening up this world to more readers, who really should be able to get know the main characters, Adsila Bell, Luna Silva, and Eve, and the worlds they live in.
The Last Cowboy is about three women whose lives are linked by the discovery of a mysterious alien planet. One lives on it, one studies it, and one is using it to hide their dark secrets. The main characters are Eve, a little girl who was raised by aliens; Adsila, a former activist who now works as a researcher and is dealing with a lot of her own baggage; and Luna, a successful robotics tycoon raising her daughter on earth.
(From her Comics Alliance interview)

This story about these amazing woman (women of color, I'll point out) is really great. The mainstream publishing houses might be a bit hesitant to print the works of women artists telling women's stories, but that doesn't mean there isn't a crying need for these comics. Until the big houses realize they can and will make money on these stories, we'll just have to print them ourselves.
A few years ago I made a pact to myself that I will never write a story about another straight white boy. We have plenty of those. The Last Cowboy is about women of color, for women of color. It also deals a lot with reproductive rights, and feminist issues in general — subjects which I am very passionate about. It’s a story I’ve always wanted to read myself, so I made it myself.
(From her Comics Alliance interview)


I know it's last minute and there are only a few days left to help fund this project. I know that the pledge rewards are a bit higher than for other projects by big name artists, but even a smaller donation would help her toward her goal. And I'm broke, but even I'm giving her a few bucks I can spare. Who needs Starbucks when you've got great comics to read while sipping tea at home, right?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Kickstart This!

So you say you need more dragons in your life? Maybe a good RPG where you get to play a dragon? Or it is just me? I mean, OK, I'll admit that I just finished reading The Dragonriders of Pern for the first time last week or so. (I know. I know. Please don't judge.) And now I'm missing my dragon friends.



So when I saw a post about Epyllion on Google+ earlier this week, I got super excited! You mean I can play a dragon? Heck yeah, I'm sooooo in!
Epyllion is a tabletop roleplaying game (RPG) where you play dragons in a dragon-centric world. You are the sons and daughters of the Dragonlords, mighty rulers who need your help to investigate rumors, solve problems, and discover the truth of a growing evil in the land. Along with your fellow dragons, you and your clutchmates will protect Dragonia from the Darkness and discover the true value of friendship. While you play, you’ll explore what dragons do, building on what each of you adds to the story, and exploring the meaning of friendship for yourselves.
Um... yeah. Consider me sold. Forget riding dragons or training dragons, I'm all about BEING a dragon! Of course, my dragon's going to be a princess. But the kind of princess dragon that flies around burning stuff down, chasing off bad folks, and generally just being a kickass dragon fighter!

To put the icing on this amazing dragon cake, here's a great quote from Marissa Kelly, the designer on Contessa. (It's a great interview. Go read the whole thing!)
The concept was born somewhere from my love of dragons and epic fantasy stories, like Lord of the Rings. I always wanted to know more about the dragons in those tales and where they came from.

The process of creating Epyllion was hard and took a lot of effort, but at GenCon 2014 we made our deadline and released the ashcan version of the game: Epyllion: Drake Edition. This was the bare minimum of text and rules needed to play the game. Since then, I have been working with my team to take in feedback, change the rules, and playtest the game to get it just right.
Marissa Kelly, aka Mother of Epyllion









So, seriously, go check out the awesome game Epyllion! I promise you won't be disappointed!

+ + +

Edited to add this fantastic quote Jonathan Perrine left on my G+ post:
I have not had the pleasure of running this game for a young crowd, but I've heard tons of good things from those who have. 

I have run it for grownups, and it draws you right back into this fantastic Saturday morning cartoon - LOTR headspace where what matters most are your friends and the things you believe in, no matter the odds. 

Creating fun, lively encounters is easy for new and experienced GMs, whether it is wise dragon statues or strange hybrid animals making trouble for the Clutch's friends. You just bounce ideas off of your players and cool things come out of your heads and you play in that world, just like that. 

The fact that the entire game revolves around a group of friends is almost more important than the fact those friends happen to be baby dragons trying to save their society of older, cynical dragons from the darkness. - And that last part is pretty important, too.